We all can agree that meal prep saves loads of time and often plenty of money. But one question we often ask ourselves is – how long do your favourite meals last in the fridge?
Many of us will cook a pasta dish, or separate ingredients, ahead of time, for an easy grab-and-go meal or snack.
But it’s normal to worry about how long these foods stay good for – because we all hear conflicting things about how long certain foods last.
So to answer the important question, Magnet have put together a handy guide about meal prep and how long to leave certain foods in the fridge for.
It’s important to bear in mind that eating food that been in the fridge too long can lead to food poisoning – so make sure to always follow the expiry dates and your own intuition as to whether foods in your fridge are still okay.
How long does cooked food last in the fridge for?
Looking at the graph, it’s easy to see which foods apparently last the longest in the fridge.
According to Magnet, cooked eggs (who would have thought!), cooked vegetables, quinoa, lentils and bacon can all last for a week in the fridge. This makes Sunday night meal prep even easier, knowing that some of the core lunch staples last a while. Of course, it’s important to bear in mind the expiry date of the foods though.
But there are other foods like smoothies that only last a day in the fridge, as the fruit oxidises so quickly. Other types of meat like pork sausages, beef burgers, chicken turkey and minced beef also have a limited life in the fridge.
Magnet also have a handy freezer chart. We often think that if you put food in the freezer, it can last forever. However this handy freezer chart shows this is definitely not the case. Soups and sauces, pasta, rice and casseroles are all weekly staples – but they only last for three months. So best not forget about them!
Grains & legumes
- Pasta: 5 days
- Rice: 6 days
- Quinoa: 7 days
- Couscous: 3 days
- Lentils: 7 days
Fruit & vegetables
- Salad: 5 days
- Cooked veg: 7 days
- Smoothies: 1 day
- Vegetable soup: 4 days
Meat, fish & dairy
- Bacon: 7 days
- Pork sausage: 2 days
- Beef burgers: 2 days
- Minced beef: 2 days
- Steak: 4 days
- Chicken: 2 days
- Turkey: 2 days
- Poultry sausage: 4 days
- Fish (eg. Prawns): 4 days
- Cooked eggs: 7 days
Meal prep fans often buy beef, lamb and fish in bulk as they know they’ll be making lots of meals in advance. However, they only last for six months in the freezer – a lot shorter time than we thought. And especially if you don’t have the right conditions for freezing food – Magnet suggest that your freezer should have a 4-star rating and keep food at below -18 degrees.
How far in advance should I prep my meals?
While most of us will take over the kitchen on a Sunday night and prepare meals for the rest of the week, this isn’t always the best thing to do.
Magnet says that as a rough guide, prepping your meals four days in advance is perfect. Most ingredients can last for almost five days when they have been prepared.
They also suggest that quality containers are the key to meal prepping success, as they will ensure that your food stays fresher for longer.
Advice for preparing your meals ahead of time
Whether you’re a seasoned meal prepper and just looking for more information or a newcomer looking for inspiration – here’s some useful advice to consider.
Always check the label
Some foods that you buy ‘fresh’ could have already been frozen during the shipping process, if they’re not locally sourced. Refreezing these can cause harmful bacteria to grow – so always read the label on the back of the packet.
Only freeze food once
Be aware that refreezing and thawing your food a second time can cause harmful bacteria to grow.
Defrost meat slowly and properly
Instead of just taking meat out of the freezer and leaving it on the side, or even worse – defrosting in a microwave – let meat thaw out in the fridge over some hours.
If you haven’t meal prepped before and looking for inspiration to get going, check out two of our favourites – spaghetti meatballs and vegetable curry. They’re perfect to make in advance and just heat up in the microwave at home, or at work.